The first recognized advertising and marketing agency was started by a guy named William Taylor in 1786, according to Wikipedia. Agencies back then primarily focused on print advertising in newspapers, playbills, quarterly magazines, and Farmers’ Almanacs. As time progressed and media evolved, agencies focused on the medium du jour, such as live entertainment, radio, TV, internet, and mobile.
Since agencies had laser-like focus on very specific media, they tended to silo their approaches to marketing strategy and execution. This left both agencies and their business clients vulnerable to stagnation. For example, agencies that fought the innovation of some newfangled electronic noise transmitter (read: the radio) in the sacred name of print advertising, failed to provide proper guidance for their clients and, in many cases, folded. Theoretically, those agencies that added radio to their clients’ marketing mixes back in the 1920’s helped elongate the effectiveness of their marketing.
Fast forward another century and the same challenges present themselves to today’s businesses and agencies. The digital medium alone offers more than a dozen marketing channels such as social media (generally), SEO, SEM, PPC, display, website, ecommerce, mobile app, content, inbound, email, mobile, affiliate, and more. Many, if not most, agencies provide 2-5 of the above mentioned services.
For example, the Acme Agency might offer all things search, like SEO, PPC, and SEM, but not touch web development, mobile, and the others. Then Vandelay Agency might build badass ecommerce websites but cannot or will not help clients drive traffic and sales back to that ecomm website. These agencies provide amazing work in the respective areas of subject matter expertise for their clients. What happens though when Vandelay Agency charges Dunder Mifflin $280,000 for a custom Magento CMS ecommerce website that allows customers to place paper orders online instead of calling up Dwight Schrute, but after six months, not a single order has been placed? Sure, the website looks beautiful, the ecommerce functionality is pristine, but since Vandelay doesn’t have experience in SEO, PPC, email marketing, and retargeting, no one is going to the website (subsequently, Michael Scott gets a visit from Jan Levinson, VP of Northeastern Sales)!
So, what’s Dunder Mifflin to do? They can hire Acme Agency to run lead generation programs focused on SEO, SEM, and PPC, but Acme has never worked on a Magento CMS ecommerce platform. Plus, Acme Agency doesn’t like how Vandelay Agency wrote the product page descriptions, so in addition to the lead gen program at $10,000 per month plus ad spend, Acme quotes an additional $30,000 to rewrite every product description on the Dunder Mifflin ecommerce website.
Unfortunately, Youtech sees situations play out just like this on a weekly basis.
Enter in (finally), integrated marketing agencies. Integrated agencies are typically divided into departments that are focused on two or three primary marketing disciplines. For example, the creative department, led by the creative director, handles all facets of design, including graphics, animation, web design, UI, UX, branding, corporate identity, and the like. These employees live, breath, eat, and sleep design, so they are awesome at what they do.
The search department performs all facets of search engine work, including organic search engine optimization, Google AdWords, retargeting, mobile app store optimization, pay per click advertising, landing page optimization, call tracking, A/B testing, and analytics. The search team is typically comprised of a director who lays out overarching strategy, a manager who implements, executes, and reports, and a number of search specialists that work directly with clients and the search engines like Google and Bing. The search team maintains certifications in Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google Shopping, Google Agencies, and more.
The content department probably wears the most hats of any integrated marketing agency department. Content teams are often subdivided into social media, inbound marketers, content writers (bloggers), copy editors, email marketing specialists, public relations, and more. Each one of these subsets can be further broken down, of course. For example, the social media team could have a dedicated specialist based on platform like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc., or content writers could be further divided into video script writers, website copywriters, blog writers, and more. Members of the content department usually hold certifications in Facebook, HubSpot, MailChimp, etc.
Finally, most integrated marketing agencies have a hybrid business development and customer-facing department. The customer-facing side might be described as project managers, account managers, customer success, or something similar. The collective goal of this department is to do what’s best for the client, always. This department also serves as the primary conduit between internal teams and the client. For example, the biz dev team probably has the most intimate relationship with the client because they have sat through discovery meetings uncovering the client’s biggest pains, researching the client’s industry and competitors, and crafting a solution to best solve the client’s problems. Of course none of that matters unless the biz dev team can accurately and logically articulate the client’s story back to the internal team (but more on that in a bit). The account and project managers typically handle client reporting, uncover additional client pain points, and align both internal and external teams. Most integrated marketing agencies limit account and project managers to 1-4 clients at any given time because a smaller portfolio of clients ensures greater amounts of attention and investment paid to a given client account.
Now that we have established how they operate, let’s shift our attention to why hiring an integrated marketing agency pays greater dividends.
1 . Subject Matter Expertise Under One Roof
As noted in the Dunder Mifflin example, it’s great to have two different groups of equally smart people working on your behalf, but what happens if opposing strategies don’t link up? Dunder Mifflin would have been out another six figures plus because Acme Agency and Vandelay Agency didn’t share a mutually beneficial vision.
2 . Collaboration
We’ve established that integrated agencies provide the same level of subject matter expertise as fragmented agencies, but how do integrated folks really differ? Easy, they all work in the same office, sweat the same company color, and have matching company logo tattoos. Okay, maybe not the tats, but integrated agency departments work hand-in-hand with each other and always in the client’s best interest. If clients face simple problems, they should utilize simple solutions from one-off agencies. However, most clients face complex, sometimes messy, problems and integrated marketing agencies are better equipped to solve them because of the collaboration.
3 . Bundled Pricing and Impact ROI
If a company were to vet separate, specialized agencies in the web development, SEO, social media, and backend development fields, that same company would receive each agency’s highest dollar figure proposal, without fail. Integrated agencies, however, are ready and willing to offer bundled pricing in order to secure the business. Why is that? Agencies like Youtech believe in “growing the pie” rather than taking a bigger piece of the pie. When integrated agencies commit to clients for the intermediate to long-term and vice versa, Impact ROI is achieved. Agency employees feel a sense of ownership over the client projects and clients develop greater confidence in those agency employees working on their behalf.
Again, an integrated marketing agency can help any business solve its complex challenges through collaboration, expertise, and an ROI focused approach.